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Lakers Vs. Thunder: Kobe Bryant Welcomes Kevin Durant To Staples Center

(Sports Network) - A pair of Western Conference contenders cap off the NBA's Martin Luther King Day schedule when Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder invade the City of Angels to take on the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder, who are opening up a brief two-game road trip tonight, won their fourth straight contest last Thursday when Durant scored 36 points and Russell Westbrook compiled a triple-double with 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds as Oklahoma City edged Eastern Conference heavyweight Orlando, 125-124.

Nenad Krstic scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Jeff Green donated 12 points for Oklahoma City, which has won 13 of 18 overall and is now just two games behind the Lakers for second place in the West. "We beat one of the best teams in basketball," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "That was an exciting game. Both teams played at a high level offensively."

The Lakers, meanwhile, lost for the first time in eight games on Sunday, dropping a 99-92 decision to their Staples Center co-tenants, the Clippers. Eric Gordon led all scorers with 30 points and rookie Blake Griffin registered his franchise-record 26th straight double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds in that one before getting ejected late in the fourth quarter.

With the Clippers up 99-90 and 5.7 seconds remaining, Griffin got tangled up with Lamar Odom after Randy Foye's free throw. Odom grabbed the power forward by the jersey and pushed him out of bounds. After other players got involved, order was quickly restored with no punches being thrown. Odom, Griffin, the Lakers' Ron Artest and Clippers' Baron Davis were all ejected.

Kobe Bryant ended with a team-best 27 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who were serving as the visitor and had won nine of 10 coming into the contest. Andrew Bynum had 18 points and 13 boards in defeat. "I didn't like our energy tonight," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. "They exposed us at the end of the game and we had a couple of defensive lapses. Gordon had a really good game."

The Lakers had won 12 straight versus the Thunder franchise before Oklahoma City ended the skid in the final matchup between the two clubs last season. Phil Jackson's club quickly responded, however, by disposing of Oklahoma City in six games during a hotly contested Western Conference quarterfinals series en route to its second consecutive NBA crown.

For more information on today's game, be sure to follow Silver Screen and Roll.